News to Note, December 17, 2011

A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on December 17, 2011

Lungfish lope along, Goldilocks planet, the passing of a well-known atheist, no room in the park, faith versus science?

1. Lungfish Studied to Determine Transitional Evolution

Lungfish lurch and shimmy to show the way up the evolutionary ladder.

2. NASA Discovers Planet Within a Habitable Zone

Looking for life in all the right places

3. Christopher Hitchens: The Passing of a Well-Known Atheist

The Passing of a Well-Known Atheist

4. Atheist Signs Displace Christian Park Messages

Locals lose in lottery to atheist outsiders

5. Evangelical Climatologist Spreads Message of Climate Change and Stewardship

The global warming gospel or the green dragon?

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • If the first cloned sheep was Dolly, perhaps in the future we’ll meet the first cloned mammoth, maybe “Molly”? Japanese and Russian scientists are excited about the possibility of cloning a mammoth. They hope to use genomic material from well-preserved bone marrow recently recovered from a mammoth femur frozen in Siberian permafrost. They hope to replace the nucleus of an elephant donor egg with the nucleus of a mammoth cell. If the cloned cell multiplies, it would be implanted in an elephant for gestation. The similarity of elephants and mammoths suggests they are varieties of the same created kind. Scientists have been trying for two decades to recover intact genetic material from mammoths, so we’re a long way from “Mammoth Park.” We know from the Dolly experience that clones even under the best of circumstances can experience a number of adverse effects from the process, so it will interesting to see how the project progresses. At any rate, the present specimen may offer the best chance yet to recover genetic material and try to get a look at this extinct creature. Read more about mammoths at Mammoth Undertaking, The Confusion of Elephant and Mammoth Classification, and Extinction of the Woolly Mammoth.
  • Higgs boson is back in the news: same song, next verse. The Higgs boson is a tiny particle that, if it exists, imparts mass to matter. Its existence was proposed to explain why some subatomic particles have mass but photons—which make up light—do not. As the “giver of mass to all matter,” the particle has been nicknamed “the god particle.” Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smash protons together and examine the debris for a Higgs presence. Recent experiments have produced results within the predicted range of mass expected for the particle. Physicists are not suggesting they have found the particle but acknowledge the “blips” could just be background noise. When working with huge quantities of data, initial results can easily appear significant merely as a result of statistical artifact. Yet the media is abuzz with the news. The suggestion someone is zeroing in on the “god particle” gets attention. Why? Not because anyone suggests they’ve found God or even a non-supernatural substitute for God’s creative power but rather because some people think the LHC reproduces conditions present at the big bang. Thus, they think that if under those conditions the source of all matter is discovered, evidence for the big bang as the originator of the universe would be incontrovertible. However, the ability to create a situation in a present-day laboratory does not prove the situation ever came about naturally. Furthermore, big bang cosmology not only violates the Word of God (see Does the Big Bang Fit with the Bible?) but some laws of physics as well. Finally, a discovery that deepens our understanding of the nature of matter and energy does not rule out a supernatural created origin for that matter and energy. On the contrary, whenever that discovery actually does get made, we will have simply learned more about the complexities of the universe God created. Read more about the “god particle” at News to Note, August 6, 2011, Beams Collide Today in Expensive Hadron Collider, and In Search of God.
  • Drug resistance may linger longer than expected—perhaps indefinitely—even on antibiotic-free farms, according to a study soon to be published in Microbial Ecology. Researchers monitored for resistance to two antibiotics on a pig farm known to be antibiotic free for two-and-a-half years. Seventy to one-hundred percent of the gut bacteria in pig waste samples remained resistant. The researchers had hypothesized resistance would disappear when antibiotics were withdrawn. Genes that convey antibiotic resistance often reside on plasmids, outside the bacterial genome, and plasmids can be easily gained or lost through horizontal transfer. Persistent resistance, they suspect, may arise from linkage of the resistance genes to other essential genes. The article states that when faced with antibiotics, “Wily bacteria soon evolve resistance.” However, antibiotic resistance—which can be acquired via horizontal gene transfer between microorganisms—does not involve evolution of new kinds. Antibiotic resistance is a matter of natural selection and survival of those bacteria that already possess resistance. The article’s contention that resistance should be lost in the absence of an antibiotic challenge mistakenly supposes that antibiotic resistance develops as a response to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance does not demonstrate evolution of new kinds of life, only natural selection of old ones. See also Antibiotic Resistance of Bacteria: An Example of Evolution in Action?, News to Note, September 10, 2011, Antibiotic Resistance as “Evidence” for Evolution, and Evolution and Medicine.

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